USA-Ireland Takeaways: Defensive errors produce 2-1 defeat in Dubln

The U.S. men’s team took a 1-0 lead in Dublin but broke down repeatedly in its own half and fell to the Irish, 2-1, on Saturday.

A Bobby Wood goal in first-half stoppage time provided an advantage the Americans hadn’t really earned with their play up to that point, and in the second half the relentless work of veteran Jonathan Walters and a few key substitutions by Ireland manager Martin O’Neill turned the game around.

Here are three takeaways from the first U.S. loss under interim head coach Dave Sarachan:
1. Rusty Hamid gifted Ireland a costly goal. Once the heralded replacement for Tim Howard, ex-D.C. United keeper Bill Hamid showed the effects of his lack of playing time for Danish club Midtjylland. He played just one competitive match for the club this year and in Dublin the effects of that inactivity changed the result.

Ireland peppered him early and often with crosses, most of which he handled, but a few shaky moments preceded his egregious gaffe from which Ireland equalized. He backed up into a crowd of players challenging an Irish cross at the back post and failed to make any contact with the ball, which Kevin Long headed into the middle for Darragh Lenihan to shoot and Graham Burke to touch over the goal line.

The string of errors started with a weak challenge by Tim Weah, faked out of shoes by a Callum O’Dowda matador move. A cluster of Irish and American players at the back post was not the right place to be for Hamid, who fell in a collision and from his knees watched Lenihan take his shot.
Hamid shook off the mistake to latch onto crosses and collect balls down the stretch. He got his hand to a pulverizing, point-blank winner off the foot of Alan Judge and can’t be blamed for that goal. But on this display, he won’t be playing next week in Lyon against France -- Zack Steffen should return in goal -- and his status for the unconfirmed matches in September is very murky.
2. Backline dissolved after decent start. Sarachan paired up Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers in the middle flanked by Jorge Villafana and DeAndre Yedlin, the same quarter that started when the USA beat Paraguay, 1-0, in March.

The outside backs got forward in the first half to loft crosses that didn’t produce much and in the beginning Miazga and Carter-Vickers were well screened by holding midfielder and captain Wil Trapp.

Yet even in a balanced first half, the Americans didn’t cope well with the runs of O’Dowda and Walters, and struggled to contain winger James McLean. Subs Daryl Horgan, Edna Stevens and Lenihan raised the tempo and enabled Ireland to take command of play for long intervals and eventually score two well-deserved goals.

Judge blasted the winner after McLean had skinned Miazga, who won many aerial duels but had trouble getting in his tackles. Earlier in the game he’d been burned while challenging Walters and Seamus Coleman as they dribbled into shooting range. Though he once stopped that pair with an impressive double-tackle at times the Irish intensity left him trailing.

Tim Parker made his U.S. debut in relief of Carter-Vickers, who’d been cautioned for a mistimed tackle, and while Parker came up with a couple of important stops, he also proved to be step late at crucial moments.
3. Wood and Weah feisty but seldom in sync, midfield up and down. Wood scored from a Miazga header from a Trapp free kick just before halftime, and while Wood buzzed about before fading and being replaced in the second half he also ignored a wide-open Weah on a nice attack and instead took a weak shot that was easily saved.

Weah caused the Irish a few problems by knifing in from the wing. His dribbles produced scuffed half-clearances and U.S. opportunities, and he could have doubled the U.S. lead early in the second half but could not get his shot past Irish keeper Colin Doyle. But he played more in a frenzy than with any real purpose and a few times just barged forward without the support and eventually lost the ball.

The midfield triangle of Trapp, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams performed sporadically. Trapp’s role as anchor was clear, McKennie and Adams tried to work both sides of the midfield line. McKennie got into the box in the second half to take a shot that was saved and also set up a chance. Defensively, both he and Adams lost duels against Irish players humiliated by France last week in a friendly and anxious to atone. Adams was cautioned for a bad tackle on O’Dowda that didn’t seem to be a foul, much less a card, but the moment was indicative of the Americans’ trouble establishing cohesion.

Mix-ups between the two 19-year-olds left Trapp stranded, unsure to which gap to fill. In the first half, before serving up the set play that produced Wood’s goal, Trapp played several sharp balls to the outside backs and held the middle solidly. But Ireland’s dominance of the flanks in the second half forced Trapp to cover more ground and limited his ability to hold the middle.

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